Saturday morning came around far too early after our long drive on Friday, but we were up early and out on the road again for the drive West to New Orleans. It started out as a normal day, but would turn into the strangest and one of the best days we have had so far.
Nothing occurred for the first couple of hours driving. Then the heavens opened as we approached New Orleans and the traffic came to a halt. There were a few short leaps forward but we ended up stuck about 200metres short of a viable turn off. Unfortunately as people tried to drive along the hard shoulder one idiot acted as lawman and stuck his car halfway down the lane. This caused other cars to swerve off the road and onto the wet grass to get past – One car in particular lost grip and nearly spun off as he did so. The idiot then pulled out of the way as he was causing more than enough problems. So we took our chance and drove down the hard shoulder leaving the freeway with about 20 miles to go to New Orleans.
As we reached the outskirts of the city we were surprised to see boats strewn alongside the road. Some with writing sprayed on the sides telling people not to crush them or take them away. Other boats were broke in two or overgrown with trees or grass by the side of the road. I don’t know is they are still from Hurricane Katrina as it seems to long since that for them to still be there, but there was a hell of a lot of them and other rubbish strewn about.
|Crazy weather and crazy drivers|
|New Orleans - The Big Easy|
We eventually reached the hotel about 2pm. The Midtown hotel didn’t get any good reviews online, but it was the only cheap hotel that had rooms at the last minute. We weren’t surprised then to enter one of the worst hotels I have stayed in, since I was in India! We were given room 308, but when we went inside there was already someone staying in there with his cooler of beers on the side and the aircon set to freezing. Obviously, we went back to reception, where we were give room 228. This room was nicer as it overlooked the pool, but unfortunately the door didn’t even close properly never mind actually lock. So we returned to reception and tried room 207. This one locked, had no obvious other residents that we could see, but strangely had a set of curtains but no window! Weird! We knew we were in a dodgy place, so decided to leave nothing in the room, but take the car into town and park it in a secure car park while we took a look around.
The city was dead – it was still raining and there seemed to be building work going on everywhere. There was nobody on any of the streets and anyone we did see looked dodgy. Our first impressions of ‘The big easy’, weren’t looking good. We eventually found a decent car park though and left the car behind while we made our way to the French Quarter and the world famous home of the Mardi Gras – Bourbon Street.
|Our classy 'windows', in the hotel!|
|Its not bad outside. though|
|Downtown New Orleans|
This too was a let-down though as during the day it’s a dirty, loud and sleazy looking strip of bars and clubs. We didn’t think much of it and made our way east till we found a much nicer and mellow area of the French Quarter. A spot of good lunch cheered us up., the rain stopped and we found a nice market place with live music and dancing. Then a stroll along the river front, a couple of beers (This and Key West are the only two place in the USA that you can walk along the street while openly drinking alcohol. We have been to both these places in one week!) a good look around made up happier as we began to enjoy ourselves and meet a few people. One of the people who chatted to us turned out to be a Voodoo Priest called Dr John, who invited us to come and see his pet pythons sometime. (No thanks!) Everywhere you look there is someone wearing a strange mask or carrying some sort of instrument. Plus there are Witches shops and places where you can buy your own voodoo dolls and cast your own spells. Haahaa, it’s cool.
|Dan with the voodoo priest!|
|Bourbon street at night|
|More of Bourbon street|
|New orleans wedding - video at the bottom|
The afternoon turned into evening and as it got dark New Orleans came to life. The dirty sleazy Bourbon street, when lit up feels like a different place and when you see a live band playing the trombones, drums and trumpets and everyone, black and white, young and old, enjoying the music and dancing in the street you can’t help but join in a little and have some fun. It is a cool place at night - A really cool place! We spent a couple more hours wandering around, visiting strange and wonderful bars like the Old Blacksmiths shop and generally sucking in the atmosphere as much as we could. I wasn’t drinking as we had the car in town, so we ended up leaving after about 7 hours in town and went to get the car. On the way we came across a classic New Orleans wedding – Led by a Dixieland band, about 250 people all with white umbrellas, dancing along the main street through town, with everyone just loving every minute of it. This is what I came to see!!
When we got to the car park it was locked up. We couldn’t get in. Bugar. There was a sign telling anyone to visit an office along the street, which we couldn’t find, but luckily as we passed the car park again someone with a pass drove into it. We ran across the street and dove under the lowering door and headed upstairs to the car. The ticket machine worked 1st time and the same door we had sneaked into, opened to let us out and eventually we found our way back out of the city centre to the Hotel of Doom.
|under the freeway...|
|a Po' Boy!!|
|Inside Georges bar|
We needn’t have worried about the hotel. I slept really well in the end in a warm and comfortable bed. However, we were up early again on Sunday and off on our way north, away from New Orleans.
First stop of the day was in Baton Rouge, where we sampled the traditional Louisiana sandwich – a Po’ Boy. Basically, it’s basically a sub sandwich, on Louisiana style French bread. We ate ours at a place called Georges – A cool bar located under a freeway overpass and it does great Po’ boys. Mine had 2 types of meat, olives and melted cheese and was so big, there was never a chance I would finish it! A proper belly filler.
We then headed north to a small town called Natchez. Largely unknown, this town is the start of the Natchez Trace parkway. This is a 440 mile long road that commemerates one of the old routes (A trace) used by Native Americans in the past. It is solely for recreational use and has no trucks, vans or other big vehicles. It is also built in such a way that you can enter at one end and drive the whole length at 50mph, without stopping - No traffic lights, no stop signs. Just exits like you see on the freeway. A blissful drive through the beautiful countryside – for 440 miles!! We stopped for a map at Natchez and spoke a little with the lovely little lady in the Visitor centre before starting our journey, which we expect to take about 2 ½ days. We also took a few minutes to look down at the Mississippi River which flows majestically through the valley by the town.
|at the start of...|
|the Natchez Trace Parkway|
|Big and hungry|
|An old farm and inn...|
|More wildlife on the empty road!!|
On the first day we drove about 100 miles to Jackson, Mississippi, stopping to see the old ‘trace’, path itself, an abandoned village where the only remains are the church and two abandoned safes! Plus a cute little waterfall and an old inn and farm which have been set up to look like it did when it was in use in the 1800’s. A really cool day made even better when we kept having to stop to avoid the big vulture like birds that were eating road kill on the highway. The only disappointment was when we reached out hotel in Clinton, just outside Jackson. The town has a no drinking rule on Sundays and so we had to have Coca Cola with our dinner in Applebee’s! Still, it was a good day!
|The old Trace.|
|The only remains of Rocky Springs.|
A few videos from our time in New Orleans...
The cool New Orleans Wedding!!